8 December 2016 addendum:
A group of North Hobart Football Club supporters is aiming to restore the old club identity. Their Facebook group: “Bring North Hobart Home.”
“If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.”
– Richard Ford, The Sportswriter
20 June 2014
It’s a late lunch break for me here in Hobart Town. I’m off to find out more about North Hobart Football Club. In 2012 M Flanagan wrote a story of the club’s character and corralling by the Tasmanian football league administration. The proud old club faced demise. It piqued my interest (it’s here).
Today, navigating the Tasmanian State League webworld for North Hobart offers no clues. All I discover is that a side called Hobart City apparently now plays out of the old North Hobart Oval.
I’m on foot today setting off from central Hobart. Just in that café there a world record was set for most cappuccinos poured in one hour. A Guinness World Record certificate hangs: last November, Sue, 289.
The shadows are long. It’s Winter Solstice Eve. There’s music in the Elizabeth St mall. The Brunswick Hotel looks to have done a reasonable trade on Friday lunch. A sign advertises a deal on a “Parmi and pot.” Parmi? Shouldn’t that be Parma? Adjudication please.
The walk takes me rapidly out of the CBD and I’m now among car yards. A mechanic is well positioned. Astride it all, Mt Wellington looms timelessly. Splendidly. Four lanes of one way traffic fizz past. There are few people as pedestrians here.
Up the valley I go. A motorcycle shop now. And a car wash. There’s the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Eucalypts line the northern hillslopes.
At the top of the Argyle St hill, I seek directions. “No alcohol in this park” proclaims a bright, impossibly clear sign. Yet this man puts his open stubby down as I approach.
– Just up there, mate. Keep going. You’re nearly there.
The odd headlight is flicking on and it’s 3:34pm.
And suddenly, here I am.
Enormous iron gates stand open. I’m in through the car park and onto the ground.
Three stands, plenty of outer. I’m at the southern goals, where the home teams run on, from under the old Horrie Gorringe stand. Brilliant name. This is North Hobart HQ. The less salubrious but impressively named Roy Cazaly stand rests in the south-eastern pocket.
The western outer wing rises on the back of a hill. Standing on the asphalt rise I’m looking across the ground to the Derwent estuary. Superb. A ridge of eucalypts runs behind the northern end. There’s a stand down there too, behind the goals. When I get there, it’s hard to decide which is the best view, for now I see Mt Wellington as the southern backdrop. Sheesh. It’s a cathedral.
Unsurprisingly, the centre of the ground is the best spot to be. 360 degree sights.
Walking off the ground as an imaginary North Hobart player, I step right up to the club social rooms and find them open. And here’s Nigel.
He’s preparing for a function. Trophies and honour boards and red and blue premiership flags adorn the large room. I’m in a shrine.
– G’day. I’m just down from Melbourne. Dave.
– G’day mate.
– I’ve heard of North Hobart. Do you mind if I have a look around?
– Go for your life. Nigel.
There’s 1902 premiership photo. And many, many more. A very successful club.
It’s impressive. But I’m struggling to get my bearings.
– North Hobart used to play here, right?
Now it’s Nigel’s turn to feel lost.
– Err, North Hobart is alive. We own the team.
– I’m confused. There’s no North Hobart playing this year is there?
– No. Ah, no. Last year the league told us to enter a side along with the Hobart club. To be called Hobart City. Two clubs together, see? But then Hobart pulled out. So now it’s just our team. It’s a North Hobart team. But we have to call it Hobart City for three years. Part of the agreement.
Ahh. And yes, Hobart did pull out. I had it confirmed by Fred, my 65-year-old (my approximation) taxi driver.
– Yep they pulled out alright. They entered the more local Southern Football League. That’s a North Hobart club there at North Hobart oval, don’t you worry.
Fred reveals himself to be a living, breathing footy almanac.
– I was there at North Hobart, you know, at the 1966 ANFC carnival.
– Yes, there was Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, the West, I think the VFA had a side. One game we had that real low fog all over the ground. When they ran on you couldn’t see the two teams.
– The big game was Tassie versus the VFL, of course. 26,500 were there. Squeezed in, we were. It was the only time I ever saw Teddy Whitten play. He played injured.
Started at full back. Then centre half back. Worked his way into it. He played on the ball and then down forward. He kicked goals. It was brilliant football.
It was like when Geelong smashed Port in the 2007 Grand Final. The result was a smashing. But the football was brilliant.
It seems I’ve landed the footy-yarn jackpot.
– I see Roy Cazaly played for North Hobart.
(I offer, just to keep Fred going)
– Oh yes. And Johnny Leedham. Don’t forget JL. Never played VFL, big JL. Oh, he was the best. Long, raking left foot drop-kicks.
– Oh we’ve had a lot who made it big. Lots who didn’t try. Look at Royce Hart. Royce Hart never played senior football in Tasmania; Richmond got him as a junior.
– But Peter Hudson, well, he had to be coaxed over to Victoria. Lived up there in the upper Derwent valley. Had this mentor; Trevor Leo, at New Norfolk. And Peter had a job, you see. Had a job with the bank. It meant he couldn’t get to training on time, so Trevor used to take training once with the main team, and then again with Huddo. A mentor, he was. One-on-one coaching.
– Oh he always kicked flat punts. But they were accurate.
– And he could read the flight of the ball. That was his gift. You’d see a pack of half a dozen with the ball coming in, and low and behold, Peter would emerge with it. It was uncanny.
– Uncanny judgment is what he had.
It’s been an educational taxi ride. Terrific. But it’s over. We part well.
North Hobart, presently playing as Hobart City (4 wins, 6 losses), is sitting seventh in the 10 team Tasmanian State League. Last round they beat ninth placed Launceston (2-8) at home.
Hobart City 19.11.125
This week they meet sixth placed Glenorchy (5-5) away.
Earlier, with Nigel in the North Hobart social rooms, he’d told me that North Hobart not only had old roots, but were putting down more.
– We just spent $1.25m on the surface and drainage here.
– Ah, so you’ll be here a while yet?
– I should think so.
– We’ve got a great book of our club history you might like.
– Ahh, I’d love a copy. What’s it called?
– “Never say die.”